In a year in which Europe is full of activities (U-21 European Championship, Cadet European Championships, Junior European Championships, ETU presidential elections) and of course, all the events that are not exclusive of the ETU, but also are very important to the institution, masTaekwondo.com wanted to continue moving in the highest political level of Taekwondo organization, this time talking to the President of the European Taekwondo Union (ETU) Mr. Athanasios Pragalos, who kindly spoke to us.
How are you Mr. Pragalos, I´m talking to you from masTaekwondo.com, would you be kind enough to give us some minutes?
Yes, of course.
What can you tell us, as ETU President, about the important and relevant events that will happen this year in Europe?
Well, as you all know, this year, we have three very important sports events, the ETU General Assembly and, also the WTF elections. We are committed to make Taekwondo ever more exciting and we are pioneers of many events. Additionally, we have WTF full support.
Every time we start a new project for the development of taekwondo, I think we are on the right track. It is worth mentioning, also, that I will run for reelection as ETU President. Since Europe is very united, as well, I can confirm that we will support Dr. Choue for his reelection in the WTF.
Speaking about Dr. Choue´s reelection, there are speculations that there is a candidate in Korea that will run for WTF presidency, are you aware of this?
Yes, apparently a Korean congressman, Mr. Hong-Moon Jong is trying to run as candidate for WTF president in the next elections, but it is not official yet, however, he already expressed his wish. For these reasons, I will travel to Korea in a few days in order to discuss with Dr. Choue this and other issues. But as I mentioned before, the whole community of the European Taekwondo Union will support Dr. Choue’s candidacy.
What is your opinion about the South Korean government´s position wanting to figure in the WTF presidential elections?
Look, what I can tell you is that European representatives do not share the idea that a person from the Korean government wants to be part of the WTF, because Dr. Choue has worked hard and has achieved great things during his period as president, so we do not think it is convenient that someone from the Korean government be part of the WTF. I think it would be pointless.
You told us that there is a great support for Dr. Choue in all Europe. However, we know that the current President of the German Taekwondo, Mr. Soo-Nam Park, wants to run for the WTF presidency. Is that so?
Yes, I have heard that Mr. Soo-Nam Park wants to run for president. He told me so while we were in Hamburg a few weeks ago and later, we discussed this issue among friends from all over Europe. But the reality is that they are not very happy with his decision.
This is another reason why I want to travel to Korea to have a meeting with Dr. Choue to express that we are with him and that Europe is united to support his candidacy. He has done a great job as a WTF leader, a great and significant work that we will continue to support.
Is Park´s candidacy officially registered in the WTF?
No, but what I can tell you is that Mr. Park announced it officially at the German council meeting.
But you said that Europe is united. Isn´t it contradictory that Mr. Park announced his wish to run for WTF presidency? What happened?
When he told me his intentions in Hamburg, I was clear and told him that I was sorry, but as president of ETU and all my Executive Council would not support his candidacy. We made it clear. After the 2009 elections, in which I was opposite candidate with Mr. Nindrapana, we promised to Dr. Choue our 100% support.
I really do not know why he wants to run, some people say one thing but they mean another; they do not tell the truth. He says that it is time for a change and that he can help, but I do not believe him (laughs). Things are not clear; I really do not know what´s behind. I asked Mr. Park not to postulate and told him that if his true intention was to develop and strengthen taekwondo he could do it anywhere, not necessarily as president.
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Speaking about the meeting in Hamburg, we know that WTF and ITF leaders had a meeting. What is your opinion about it?
On previous occasions they have approached and expressed their intention to join WTF Taekwondo because our sport is Olympic. We said they could do it, but they should stick to our rules and regulations. But sometimes there are things that do not fit; we have discussed about giving them some kind of “wild card” for example, or find ways in which we can cooperate together. Taekwondo is one and the rules do not matter, either WTF or ITF; Taekwondo is one, but the Olympic one is ours. If they want to be in the Olympics, they have to follow our rules, because they are approved by the IOC.
Do you think that the ITF wants to discuss about the joining precisely to take advantage of the WTF success in obtaining the permanence of taekwondo for the 2020 Olympics?
(Laughs) Yes, and you know for example, I heard from ITF people that they want to make an Olympic category with their forms like poomsae for us, they want to create a category where ITF forms compete in Olympics, but I really do not think the IOC will accept these suggestions, I think it will never happen.
Mr. Pragalos, it was very important for us to know the position of ETU on these relevant issues and who better than its President to clarify it to us. Thank you very much for your time and hope we can speak to you in the future.
No problem and we can talk whenever you want. Greetings to all taekwondo family.
Alex Korram, Exclusivo masTaekwondo.com